Tag Archives: unconscious bias

Is the the automated interview the future?

More and more organizations use video as an integrated part of their recruitment process. But a new step is the automated interview also called the on-demand interview. This is a structured interview where candidates answer a series of predetermined questions which are recorded to camera. There are a number of platforms that deal with this and the process can vary.

Benefits of an automated interview

Marketed as a way to overcome unconscious bias, primarily they serve to cut manpower costs of labour intensive recruitment processes. An automated interview process offers the possibility to reduce the admin costs associated with preliminary interviews. This can be around scheduling and all the time-consuming to-ing and fro-ing with diaries, time zone differences, no shows and candidates who are not on target or unsuitable in another way.  Focused questions specific to the opening allow interviewers to assess candidates at their own convenience and call only the most suitable for a face-to-face interview.

For candidates they also give flexibility, reducing the time needed off from a current job or trying to find a quiet space in today’s open plan offices.

Read: 15 ways to finesse an online interview

The automatic automated interview  

Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t a mistake.  In this model all candidates receive an email access link to the video interview which can come as soon as they have submitted their CV.  Candidates can decide when they want record their responses. That gives them flexibility to complete their recording to meet the deadline  Questions may be posted as captions on the video link, or come by text and audio questions.

Recorded Answers 

The interview starts the second the open link is clicked. Sometimes there is a welcome and housekeeping message or an organisation mission statement. Candidates should complete a tech check and then are usually asked questions specific the opening. They might have 3 questions to answer in 15 minutes. They need to pace themselves and check the available answering time as well as  the number of  re-recordings (if any) they are allowed.

Once the recording is submitted the interviewer will revert to let the candidate know if they have been successful.

Live streaming generation 

Maya is a senior executive in a Brussels based international organisation and just completed her first automated interview. She had applied all the basic tips relevant to any other video interview and was well prepared.  However, she felt some discomfort without human interaction.

“With interview questions posted as captions on the screen, it felt strange delivering a monologue. I felt the process would work better for younger generations who are used to posting and recording themselves and might feel more comfortable in that situation. It’s very different from a video interview taking place in real-time. it was also strange talking live to myself on the screen”

The feedback I’ve had has been mixed. Both interviewers and candidates comment negatively on the impersonal elements with interviewerss coming our more strongly than candidates on the cost effectiveness of the process. Candidates who are confident and comfortable performing to camera tend to do better and nervous candidates tend to underperform. With limited time for answers, preparation is key with an abiltiy to be succinct more important than ever. All believed that an automated interview by video was a huge improvement on its counterpart the auotmated telephone screening.

Read: Brevity the secret to a good interview

Recruiting skill

Regular face-to face interviews are considered to be one of the least effective ways of hiring talent and lead to signficiant errors. So care is needed to make sure the questions are designed and appropriate for each role. There were some doubts around their effectiveness on managing unconscious bias. Many felt that it was simply being deferred and judgements were being made especially on appearance and voice.

One HR Manager suggested:

Despite the automation of the process it is still possible for bias to kick in around gender, appearance, accent, voice, ethnicity etc. so it doesn’t go away completely. The “performer” quite, often an indivudalist alpha male personality will tend to do better. So that’s not a change for the better.

There was a consensus that an automated interview is useful for preliminary triage especially for lower levels positions where there is a high number of applicants. It is also useful for technical roles or to assess a specific skill. it would also be helpful if a performer personality is needed for a role.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconsicous bias?

So where are we going with thi?  Will they ever eliminate the human element no matter how flawed? Would you hire a candidate you had never met or accept a role without meeting the hiring manager?

To take it to the next phase. Would you work for a bot?  What are your thoughts?

Ask for a call regarding executive search services for your organisation.

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If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter

I was intrigued to read that a recruiter had been fired by Pepsico for failing to provide a diverse short list which should have included more than one woman. I actually don’t think the lack of women on a short list is a diversity issue, but one of balance and inclusion. It’s a small thing and illustrates underlying thinking, but at least there is a conversation. But who should be held accountable for a lack of diverse candidates on any short list when most recruiters are not bias conscious themselves?

Bias conscious recruitment

As with all these issues it’s often more nuanced than people realise. In 2014 I wrote post “Do headhunters exclude women”   It was in response to a Glasshammer post about how executive search companies and headhunters serve to exclude women. I read the Glasshammer article with interest and the report it was based on  “And then there are none: on the exclusion of women in processes of executive search,” which appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal in 2013.

My main contention was two-fold:

  • if organisations really wanted to hire women they would
  • the recruitment process is riddled with unconscious bias at every turn, both at head hunter level and internal corporate processes.

Responsibility split   – head hunters and recruiters 

I don’t know anything about the assignment brief which resulted in the firing of the recruiter, so can’t comment on the detail. The reality is that some recruiters are woefully unprepared to recruit anyone at all, let alone provide gender balanced shortlists. Unconscious bias training should be mandatory for all recruiters and if they are not  “bias conscious” I would even contend they shouldn’t be recruiters.

This is fixable.

  • Understand the concept of gender coding and other biases and how the impact the recruitment process. A client bemoaned the fact that their entry-level intake for women was at 33%, which although was a critical mass for women, meant that the talent pipeline struggled when churn kicked in later down the line. Yet only a cursory check showed that their adverts are male coded. This will not be the only factor but it will play a role.
  • Be able to ask their clients the right questions. The fact is that women are under represented at senior levels in almost all organisations. Detailed analysis needs to be made of where barriers for women occur and why. Many organisations need to re-think their hiring policies and come up with some creative alternatives.
  • With a tendency to demand shortlisted candidates who can “hit the ground running” at a more senior level, organisations place demands on recruiters to look for the usual suspects in the usual places and they tend to be male.
  • They can source candidates in a creative way from places where women will be found, not by running a basic Boolean string on LinkedIn. Currently recruiters rely heavily on their networks to present shortlists which can lead to the embedding of affinity bias, what I call the 3Ms (Mini –Male-Mes)
  • They need to know how to sell to women. Many don’t.
  • They need to understand gender difference in communication and ask better questions of both male and female candidates.
  • They can make sure that interviews are structured and that any potential bias is called out. Many are reluctant to do this because clients can take offence. I’ve been in this situation and it calls for extreme diplomacy.

Corporate Responsibility

  • Stop the practise of hiring recruiters on contingency (no placement no fee) especially first past the post. It encourages dubious quick fix, low-cost practises which are certainly not diverse.
  • Be more creative themselves –  consider returnships and other ways of strengthening the female talent pipeline. Support recruitment organisations which have an innovative approach to recruitment.

Bias is learned behaviour and habits acquired over years in all aspects of our every day lives. Understanding those biases, to make bias conscious decisions requires significant effort and training to become conscious of where and when it impacts the recruitment process and all hiring decisions. Needless to say this applies to all biases not just gender. But it’s a good place to start.

If you need a bias conscious recruitment team – place a call now. 

reputation management

Social media a danger zone for HR professionals

Career coaches are constantly exhorting candidates to take care of their cyber foot print, especially at entry-level. All recruiters and headhunters usually check out applicants online before meeting them. Line managers have been warned to pay attention when liking and sharing inappropriate content on LinkedIn. Many are unaware it all goes out to an individual’s whole network and can potentially damage their personal brand. Direct reports say that it looks creepy!  But social media is now becoming an unforseen danger zone for HR Managers. They too have to be mindful of their social media activity.  Social media posting is now part of the daily routine for those working in the function, but it can have a downside.  Any ill-considered content could be not just be damaging to their reputations, but can also be used in legal action.

Social media activity reflects our belief systems 

There is a new discussion around posting and tweeting  on issues which are important to us personally. They reflect our views, values, our belief systems. But to counter that, they are they also an indication of deeply embedded biases and attitudes. The question is whether they are going to follow us into the workplace and impact our decision-making.  Or are they  a form of authentic expression separate from our professional lives? Adding a disclaimer may be enough for any organisation, but what about a legal process?

Clearly I could never get a job in UKIP or any European Fascist Party. Needless to say I don’t lose sleep over that. Or I might, if there is a populist takeover and all dissenters are rounded up. That has happened before.

Shifting culture

We are seeing increasing cultural and political shifts, with strong feelings and rhetoric on all sides.  Is it possible to separate what we see posted in the public domain, from the person’s ability to do an unbiased, neutral and professional job? The lines are actually very blurred.

Here are two stories that have been shared with me only this week. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Aliyha is a research chemist with an international company based near Birmingham, U.K. She has received what she experiences as unconstructive and even obstructive communication from her HR Manager, Alison, regarding her career progression. Aliyha is seeing her peers’ careers developing at a different (i.e. more advantageous) pace.  Last week she discovered quite accidentally that Alison has been very energetically re-tweeting Katie Hopkins over a long period.

I checked out the account and the profile is the usual benign HR blurb: “HR Management, CIPD, mother and wife etc.” She also endorses Katie Hopkins and her opinions somewhat enthusiastically  – at least once a day.  Depending on your point of view, Hopkins will be a “controversial columnist” or a provocative hate generating commentator. She has caused outrage and legal action associated with her comments on immigration, overweight people and even children’s names, as well as personal vindictive attacks resulting in libel suits.  Aliyha asked

“I have no reason to believe that my performance is lower than that of my colleagues. My annual appraisals have always been excellent.  I have never had any problems at all until Alison became my HR Manager.  Is it because I am the daughter of immigrants, a bit on the chubby side and have an Arabic name  – could this be what is coming into play now?”

The answer is we will never know for sure, but there is no doubt that if Aliyha’s complaint becomes a case, her lawyer confirmed he intends to reference Alison’s online and social media activity and support of a racist, as an indicator or her inherent bias and prejudice.

Backlash 

At the other end of the scale Michael is a Trump voter. An HR Director in a security company in San Diego,  he believed his social media activity was minimal. However, he  has openly supported Trump on his Facebook page and posted pro-Trump comments on LinkedIn. Since the November election he has been surprised danger zone for HR professionalsto encounter negative undercurrents from colleagues, who now question his commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce for the company.

He has been called a racist and misogynist. His peers and team have told him that even if these are not his personal views, it is clear that he tacitly approves the stance of  President Trump. Michael feels that he has unfairly lost the trust of colleagues and employees and he is the victim of bias and prejudice.

I asked Annabel Kaye, Managing Director Irenicon a UK-based employment law specialist if there is a case.  She agrees social media is a danger zone for HR.

HR Managers should be and always are careful of their online posts. It is entirely possible that Twitter support of Katie Hopkins for example could indicate unconscious racial bias if not active racial prejudice. Whilst it is not definitive proof either way, certainly in the UK it would allow the ‘inference’ to be drawn that any decisions made by the HR person who made those tweets might be influenced by bias and thus put their employer at increased risk of losing a discrimination case.

For this reason most HR people who tweet use things like  “my opinions only – nothing to do with my employer”   on their bio as disclaimers.

But as discrimination cases are often about what people think (consciously or unconsciously) this would still be evidence as to their state of mind. Of course in the UK individuals who make discriminatory decisions are potentially liable as well as the organisation. So all in all, not a good plan to publicly support racists, sexists, or other discriminatory tweeters or characters if you don’t want this coming to an employment tribunal near you.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of discrimination or bias, but it is another item that is going to be used in tribunal.

Separate personal and professional

So what does this mean for HR and our social media activity and how it relates to personal branding and reputation management?  Should HR or even all professionals go back to the old school way of keeping our views on sex, religion and politics separate to our professional personas?  At what point do they decide that social media can be a danger zone for HR managers? And  then what happens if what we tweet is out of alignment with the values of our organization even with a disclaimer?

So where do you stand in the danger zone for HR professionals?

 

 

 

Tech tackles workplace bias with new apps

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias in job search and recruitment

Tech is considered to be one of the least gender balanced sectors. Women are difficult to identify, attract and when that does happen, the churn levels are especially high. But it is also an area which is well placed to offer support to organisations wanting to monitor or highlight their own unconscious biases for gender and other workplace bias.

Some of the apps coming out of the tech sector offer ingenious ways to identify situations where workplace bias exist. It’s clear that although they all can’t tackle the bias directly  – they do expose it and highlight it.

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias

Doxa

Doxascore.com is an online dating style site, with data driven tools to match women with companies that best fit them.  Doxa helps women job seekers glean how various tech start-up companies treat their female employees. Using employee sourced survey data, the software develops a view what it is like to work at various companies, and how women fare in these workplaces. The profiles examine  compensation,  hours worked and schedules, pay gap, hours spend in meetings, the number of women on the leadership team and maternity-leave policies.

Entelo Diversity

This is a recruiting software which supports companies wanting to create more diverse teams by targeting specific demographics that are under represented in their current organisations. The algorithm reviews the online profiles of potential candidates—using data from Twitter, GitHub and other sites. “Since this information is layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications, the solution provides a level of objectivity as it relates to your hiring practices. It also helps organizations demonstrate good faith efforts and comply with regulations”

FairyGodBoss

FairyGodboss is a data crowd sourcing platform to rank companies for the professional experiences and conditions they offer women. They have identified top industries for “gender equality, women’s job satisfaction, and the ones women would recommend to other women.” PR, Cosmetics and Hospitality are apparently the leading industries when it comes to women’s perceptions of gender equality at work. This gives women an opportunity to research organisations and make informed decisions based on comments of other women.

GapJumpers

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t tackle the root of the problem

GapJumpers is the “Voice” for business offering what they call blind auditions. The app offers companies a platform on which they can test the abilities of job applicants without knowing their gender or race , identifiers which lie at the root of bias.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this process to understand how it works in practise. Blind CVs tend not to deal with the real problem, simply defer it to late in the process. But they do get candidates through the first stages which is at least a step in the right direction.

Gender decoder Kat Matfield

Gender Decoder is an app similar to Textio, it highlights linguistic gender-coding  which appears in job adverts and other documents. Research has shown that language cause women to self-deselect from applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language.This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect. It’s a free app and one that works well.

I’ve used it myself.  My only comment would be that some of the words that are considered to be male coded such as “confident” and “business acumen” are more of a commentary on our culture. To replace with words which are considered to be “female” is simply patronising.

Gendertimer

meetings

Gendertimer is an app that monitors the amount of “meeting air time” participants take up. Here you can track who hogs the floor to create greater gender awareness in meetings and other social situations. Research shows that the dominant group is men! Users can manually record any speaker’s gender chart the data. This leads to self-regulation for any extroverts or  “mansplainers” and the possibility of holding more inclusive  meetings.

Includeed

I saw the pitch for this software diversity dashboard at an #HRTech conference in Paris 2015. Launching in 2016 Founder Sandrine Cina says “Includeed is an online platform which brings together employees, customers and companies around the topics of diversity and equal opportunities. Includeed allows employees and customers to review companies on their efforts towards equal opportunities, letting them know what is really needed and which solutions would be beneficial for all.”

InHerSight

Inhersight.com . Users rank their workplace across 14 criteria including maternity leave, salary satisfaction and wellness. The platform’s rating system is similar to sites such as Glassdoor, TripAdvisor Inc. and other crowd sourced feedback sites. It aggregate anonymous user-generated data to guide women to make “smarter decisions”.

Just not sorry

Just not sorry is a chrome extension app which produced an international furore in the sorry/not sorry debate. This is designed to help women neutralise their emails from “girl speak”  along the lines of sorry-not-sorry-242x300 “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m just trying to confirm our arrangements and could you possibly let me know your plans for xx. I know this is short notice but would you mind getting back to me by xx”

My own view is that some women (and men) may find it helpful and emails should be succinct because no one will read them!

Textio

Textio is a spell check for job adverts, highlighting word choices that show gender bias or hackneyed phrases.  It suggests alternative phrasing to stop self-de-selection by certain categories of job seekers. The program discourages corporate buzz words  such as “ ninja” or “guru”   which appeal to male applicants. Once again, my concern is words which are listed as male coded need to adapt with the culture  rather than the other way around.

Unitive

Unitive  leads to is a data driven hiring decisions and monitors job applicants and the hiring process, allowing hiring managers to visualize the information behind their decisions. The platform reminds hiring managers throughout the process when they are most likely to exhibit bias. This can be when drafting job descriptions, adverts, reviewing resumes or other written documents to recognize and avoid workplace bias. Candidates compete anonymously to solve problems related to the job.

What other apps or platforms would you recommend to tackle workplace bias? I would be happy to include them.

If your organisation needs unconscious bias training – contact me.

 

 

structured interviews

Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias?

Structured interviews in the hiring process

Structured interviews with data driven questioning and assessment are being touted as the “new” way forward in selection processes to avoid unconscious bias, especially in relation to gender bias. Today, most interviewers adopt a fairly relaxed approach to interviewing. There is a strong preference for what seems like casual questioning about the candidate’s background and experience. But although unstructured interviews are perceived to be the most effective from a hiring manager perspective, research suggests that they are one of the worst predictors of on-the-job performance. They are considered to be less reliable than general psychometric testing and personality tests which can be as much as 85% reliable.

So why do we continue to do it?

Cultural fit

There is a long standing reliance on the ability to identify “cultural fit.” Many managers and leaders pride themselves on having the gut instinct to recruit the best talent. It’s possibly true that some do. But most don’t. What they do is follow the tried and tested P.L.U. method of hiring  – People Like Us. As most of the decision makers are male, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 3M approach applies: Mini- Male- Mes. An interviewer’s perception of a candidate in an unstructured interview (a normal interview to you and me) is the over riding factor.

Removing human perception

Somewhat cynically I think it’s an unlikely and unrealistic expectation that we will be able to remove human assessment from hiring decisions. A candidate maybe considered to be the best via testing, but may struggle to fit in with the team. I have seen situations where candidates come into the 98 percentile on testing scores and still are not hired because the hiring manager just didn’t like him. Is this based on a bias? Of course. One that is very hard to define. His boss decided that the relationship between the manager and job holder would have been the key driver and the candidate was cut.

Unconscious bias is set up in our DNA to protect ourselves. This is why we hire and surround ourselves with P.L.U., from backgrounds similar to our own or that don’t cause us discomfort.

What are structured interviews?

Rather than relying on ad hoc questions, where the bias of an interviewer can be imbued into both the question itself and also how she receives the answer, it is believed that interviews should be set up so that all candidates are asked questions, in the same order and responses noted down at the time.  There is usually a half way point where an anlysis of the candidates performance is assessed. Interviewers are also held accountable for any perceptions and required to defend them.

The objections to structured interviews are that the communication flow is less organic and possibly stilted, but the results are likely to be more neutral. Response can then be compared systematically.

Candidate Score cards

Candidate scorecards from structured interviews are a more objective method of evaluation in which candidates’ responses are assessed against a predefined benchmarks. Hiring managers can  allocate a weight for each answer based on the requirements of the job in terms of skills and experience, company values,

Will data based questions really overcome unconscious bias? Google identifies certain characteristics that guarantee on-the-job success and structure questions around that. Laslo Bock, VP HR  in his book Work Rules identifies questions that “are behavioral, dealing with past scenarios, and situational, dealing with hypothetical scenarios.”

Psychometric or other testing

Many companies combine testing and an interview process. Frequently candidates are asked to complete behavioural interviews with a specific assignment in line with the requirements of the job. A practical skill test also allows employers to assess the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age and even personality. Some companies do hiring weekends of “trial by sherry” when they go through a gamut of social events and behavioural assessments. This does not necessarily eliminate bias. There is that urban legend where a candidate was supposedly cut for putting salt on his food before tasting it.

Balanced shortlists 

The reality is that it is not just the nature of the hiring process and whether structured interviews become the norm. The interview procedure can be as neutral as you like, but if the rest of process is riddled with bias and coded messages then the system is set up to fail. This can be in adverts, job descriptions, self- de-selection of female candidates, and other subliminal messages projected at candidate touch points.

One issue is the number of minority candidates short listed for each open assignment. Research from University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, although not conclusive, suggests that the key is to have 2 or even 3 female candidates (or other discriminated group) on the short list to level the odds. Psychologically it deflects the black/white approach of “do I want this candidate or not”  to either or thinking.

Companies can insist that the executive search company or the in-house recruiter meet those requirements. If they don’t have the skills to go beyond the highly visible, low hanging fruit type of candidate identification, and many don’t,  they should use specialist organisations which do. Check out 3Plus International 

 A female candidate’s chances of being hired are statistically zero if she is the only woman in a pool of finalists

The most effective way to manage unconscious bias is to make hiring managers aware of their own biases. Then start managing them at every stage of the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

How helpful are Blind CVs?

There has been a recent move towards proposing blind CVs in the recruitment process. Intended to increase diversity and reduce bias in areas such as gender, ethnicity and ageism, a number of organisations are committing to this system, including the U.K. Civil Service, the BBC, the NHS, KPMG and HSBC.

But will blind applications support the reduction of unconscious bias in the recruitment process, or just serve to highlight its existence? At some point the candidate has to be called for interview.

Gender

Research from Yale has shown that when women remove their names from their resumes, they stand a higher chance of being short listed for a job than when their names are visible. Although that may help in the short listing process, it doesn’t save these women from the same bias which reappears once hired into the organisation. In a recent study of code written by women, it was noted that their efforts were more likely to be approved by their peers, than code written by their male colleagues. This caveat was based on the fact that the men didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

There is one argument against Blind CVs and it’s a valid one. Blind CVs serve  to get candidates through the first part of the process.  But after that point they only then serve to delay discrimination.

Ethnicity

Individuals with names that don’t match the ethnicity of the culture they are applying into have claimed for years that bias exists at the application stage. I have known many highly qualified North African and Arab candidates, adopt names in line with their target markets to avoid bias in the selection process, to increase their changes of landing an interview. This process of deception surely only serves to mask part of their unique background and experience. It also marks a shift from unconscious bias to direct discrimination.

Age  

The age of older candidates is usually clear in the career history of a candidate. I always feel that my time has been wasted when someone presents themselves as 40, when they are actually 65. If someone doesn’t put the year they graduated, it’s usual to assume that they will be over 50. Today with retirement ages being deferred until 67 or even later, a 50 year old has about 30% of a career left.  Candidates would be better advised to prove they are current.

I would also hope that a candidate should be able to embrace their age and younger hiring managers would be trained to handle generational and age differences in the hiring process.

Downsides

A person’s full career history including personal details, interests and hobbies as well as background play an important part in assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job. Resume writers such as Jacqui Barrett Poindexter, suggest that we should weave our resumes with a relatable story  to showcase our personalities and personal stories. Leaving out key elements or obfuscating in any way, will not show who we are. With the spread of online profiles it is not too difficult to match blind CVs against a real person anyway.

So the question remains is whether the blind CV process is just treating a symptom of unconscious bias, or we should seriously focus on getting to the root of it. Candidate sourcing is only part of the process. If the rest of the experience is riddled with bias, not a lot of progress will be made.

Although unconscious bias can’t be eradicated, it can be managed.

This is why all hiring managers should receive unconscious bias training. Contact me! 

 

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Unconscious bias dries up the tech talent pipeline

At a dinner party last week I was asked by a yummy mummy, what field should she encourage her daughter to go into and what academic choices would I advise she make? The kid is 8.  Now my first instinctive reaction was that this was more than a little over the top.

The poor girl should become whatever she would like to be …. right? In line with her talents and passions …

Or maybe not.

How do you know what you are good at or passionate about if you have no knowledge or experience of it?

I have recently been invited to be a VIP Blogger at the HR Tech Conference in London in March.  I tick many of the boxes: I blog, I know about HR, but in many ways I’m not technically minded.  I dropped maths and science as early as I could in school. Yet, I am above average intelligence (really), generally quick to pick things up, was a strong student and the only person in a recent Executive MBA class who could explain Pythagoras’ Theorem.

So what happened?  Rewind to home and school.

Unconscious bias

Back in the day science was for boys. We had no data then to tell us how we were being channelled, even unconsciously and even less idea if it mattered. I studied Social Sciences, breaking the curve for the time, because back then it wasn’t a “girly” subject,  with women students being out numbered probably 5:1.  At that time it was a gateway qualification for women into business and industry.

But both my brothers took straight science. They were also taught to play golf. I wasn’t.

Drought in the female talent pool

We live in an era where organisations are trying to deal with critical hard and even soft skill deficits. Companies are looking internationally for computer scientists and engineers, many of whom now come from overseas. Almost 30% of US engineers are born outside the US. Yet  although 60% of European and US graduates are women, they are not selecting these subjects with only 20% of technical and engineering graduates being women. In the UK only 6%of engineering jobs are held by women.

So even today, many years later, knowing what we know now, nothing much has changed. The tech fields, still struggle to attract women, with men dominating those industries and functions, whether home-grown or imported. Even the workforces of forward thinking companies such as Google are only 30% female. Women are continuing to move into careers with a soft skill focus (pink functions) or so-called caring professions and the gap continues to widen.

Gender balance

There are simply too few women to attract. Organisations have missed the boat. The reality is combating stereotyping and gender balance starts while the workplace is a twinkle in a pushy mother’s eye.

I have met a few women who took science qualifications in later life, but generally in my experience, the trend has been in the other direction. 40% of women for example leave engineering reducing the talent pool even further. Egg freezing benefits fail to address the real issues and come far too late in the talent pipeline process.

So good for the pushy mother at the dinner party. Not so much pushy, as savvy and strategic.

Identifying effective opportunities to deal with these challenges is complex, involving paradigm shifts in thinking in many areas of our society. All are integrated and almost inseparable. It will inevitably involve creating effective gender balance policies to make any dent on our unconscious bias riddled culture:

  • To parents: encourage sons and daughters to explore all sides of their intelligence and discourage a split into girly subjects and activities, separating them from those for boys
  • To education authorities: making science compulsory to a reasonably senior level,  also gender neutral and fun. In some educational systems high school graduation is impossible without maths, a science, as well as arts subjects.
  • To the media and tech companies themselves: Kill the mad, reclusive, on-the – spectrum, scientist stereotype. Make science cool and sexy, not geeky. Create characters for movies, cartoons and games that show that women can be scientists and engineers, without being unfeminine. Not forgetting boys can be caring, without jeopardising their masculinity.
  • To organisations:  make women employees highly visible. Give them and make them mentors. Send them to schools as ambassadors and make sure they are on stage as conference speakers internally and externally especially when talking about diversity. Create return-ships for women who have taken parenting leave, so that they stay with their companies, rather than deferring having children. Someone still has to take that child to the dentist.  

Of the 9 new jobs anticipated for 2030 – how many require tech skills?

I predict a good profile for the future will be a  technical subject (of some yet to be created discipline, which we currently know nothing about) languages (no, not everyone will prefer to speak English) and business training.

Only time will tell if I am right!